by David Langton
Photo used by kind permission of the National Archives.
The social structure of England under the Anglo-Saxon kings was one of direct obligation to the king and administration by royal officials such as the shire reeve or sheriff.
Following the successful Danish invasions, Danish kings sat on the English throne Sweyn 1013-14, his son Canute 1016-1035 and his sons Harold I Harefoot 1037-1040 and Hardicanute 1040-1042. Under the Danes great earldoms began to arise in Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria.
In 1042 the Anglo-Saxon monarchy was restored under Edward the Confessor 1042-1066 but he was inept as a king and the most powerful men in the country were Earl Godwin of Wessex and his son Earl Harold. When Edward died the rightful king was Edgar a teenager, but three men immediately tried to usurp the throne. The first was Earl Harold who had himself crowned king. He defeated the second would be usurper Harald of Norway at Stamford Bridge before rushing south to a spectacular defeat at Hastings in October 1066 against the third usurper William the Bastard Duke of Normandy. Edgar was briefly declared king in London before making way for William and going into exile, dying about 1106.
At William's coronation when the English crowd shouted to acclaim William as king, the Norman knights mistook the noise for opposition and attacked the crowd. In England kings had formerly been chosen by the witan (proto parliament) and acclamation. Things were however about to change. Whereas the Danish invasion had left much of the Anglo Saxon structure untouched, the Norman invasion brought an almost complete seizure of land and entirely new structures of government and occupation. Kingship was now going to be by inheritance of the eldest son (primogeniture) and a new system of hierarchical land ownership was to be introduced. The king now sat at the top of a pyramid. Partnership was gone and exploitation and castle building had arrived.
To efficiently exploit people you need to know exactly what they've got. Domesday book, or the Book of Doom, was the king finding out exactly what people had so that he could exploit them the better. This was William's big idea for 1086. The anglo Saxon chronicle laments:
'He sent his men all over England into every shire and had them ascertain how many hundreds of hides there were in the shire, or what land and livestock the king himself had in the land, or what dues he ought to have in 12 months from the shire...'. He had it investigated so very narrowly that there was not a single hide, not one yard of land, not even (it is shameful to tell-but it seemed no shame to him to do it) one ox, not one cow, not one pig was left out, that was not set down in his record.'(1)
The English were so shocked at the rigour and detail of the book's inquisitors that they regarded it as ushering in the end of the world, hence the name Domesday Book. Although the arrangement of the book is by the old English shires, the detail of ownership is according to the hierarchy. For this reason there can be double entries in the book where more than one person owned land in a particular village.
Not all Langton villages are mentioned in Domesday book, some were too small to be mentioned by name, but you may surmise that any assets were not overlooked and were included elsewhere.
Langton near Malton 'Lanton' in text is recorded under the land of Hugh FiftBaldric who had put his man Geoffrey in charge. It is lumped in with five other places, was in decline and the area which was worth £6 was big enough for 48 men , 2 priests, 2 churches and 15 ploughs.
Great Langton 'Langeton' in the text was worth 22 shillings in 1066 when it had been owned by three men, one unnamed, the other two with the Danish names Thorfinn and Thor. In 1086 it was owned by Count Alan who had put his men Bodin and Hervey in charge. However, in Domesday Book it is described as waste. This is probably due to the Normans destroying much of the north after a rebellion. The two significant buildings were either pulled down or burnt.
Little Langton had been worth twenty shillings. It also belonged to Count Alan and was also waste. Of the hundred and ninety nine manors controlled by Count Alan from his castle 108 were waste.
Langton by Spilsby, 'Langetune' in the text, was lumped in with Hagworthingham, Salmondby, Tetford, Brinkhill, Winceby, and Claxby Puckacre being owned by Earl Hugh. There were 182 men 9 mills and land for 39 ploughs, 350 acres of meadow land.
Part of Langton by Horncastle 'Langetone' in the text was directly held by the king. It was lumped in with Thorpe in Woodhall having 37 men 4 ploughs 1 mill 120 acres of meadow land and 250 acres of wood being worth 9 shillings. However another entry says there was land held by Drogo de la Beuvriere enough for 3 ploughs including one for Drogo's man Geoffrey who had fifteen men, 160 acres of meadow and 200 acres of woodland worth forty shillings.
Langton by Wragby is 'Langetona' and 'Langetone' in the text and was the land of Erneis de Buron with a villan and 21 acres of scrubland and land for four oxen. Waldin Engaine also had land for one plough 6 sokemen and 43 acres of scrub. There was also a dispute about who owned land in Langton between the Bishop of Durham and Eudo FitzSpirewic.
In Low Langton Gilbert de Ghent had 140 acres of woodland, however Robert de Spencer was disputing this unsucessfully. Robert de Vessey had 12 men, land for 4 ploughs, 24 acres of meadow land and 280 acres of wood.
The Archbishop of York held Tur Langton (Cherlintone Terlintone) with Walkelin holding it of him. Together with West Langton (Lagintone Langetone) amounting to 20 acres of meadow land, woodland, nine ploughs, 28 men and 2 female slaves. In addition of Walkelin, Herbert held four ploughs, 9 men and 12 acres of meadow. The Archbishop's holding was worth 20s. In addition Peterborough Abbey had land for 5 ploughs, 9 men, 8 acres of meadow and 5 acres of woodland
Hugh de Grandmesmill held East Langton (Langtone) and Osbern held it of him, land for 8 ploughs, 3 slaves, 17 men, a priest, a knight and a mill total worth 40s.
Langton Herring (Langetone) was held directly by the king. There was land for 2 ploughs, 10 men, 8 acres of pasture and meadow worth 30s. The wife of Hugh FitzGrip also held land in Langton Herring, 9 men, 3 ploughs, 4 acres of meadow and 40 of pasture. Worth 40s
Langton Long Blandford was held by the Count of Mortain. Dodman held it of the Count 5 men, 9 acres of meadow worth 15s.
Robert Arundel also held land there worth £4. Edwin amazingly an Anglo Saxon name also held land there with a mill and a priest also worth £4.
1. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles Swanton Phoenix
For more information on Domesday Book see Domesday Book ed Williams and Martin. Penguin